Republicans Are the Worst

Like so many others, I continue to wonder how millions of Americans could vote not only once but twice for Trump.

It is puzzling both psychologically and sociologically. This mystery (or mystification) has seriously exacerbated the divide between right and left. Prior to June 2015, the left generally thought they understood where the right was coming from; they generally assumed that the right were for the most part decent enough, patriotic Americans who just held different political beliefs. But after this clownish, racist demagogue surged in the polls and eventually won the 2016 presidential election, the divide became much more than political and ideological; it became moral and psychological as well. The left came to regard the right as something much worse—a thoroughly toxic combination of ignorant, crazy, and evil.    

And gullible. The left still can’t comprehend how the right-wing propaganda machine, from Fox News to Newsmax to Infowars to QAnon, has been able to fool millions of American adults into believing the most preposterous lies—for example, that Trump actually won re-election, that Democrats are pedophiles who routinely traffic and murder children, and that JFK Jr. will rise from the dead and run with Trump in 2024. 

The standard explanation is that the right fell into this insane cult because Trump expressed their deepest, darkest thoughts—especially about race and women—thoughts that they had mostly kept to themselves until Trump gave permission to express them. (He also gave them permission to throw childish tantrums in public without any embarrassment.) This explanation is correct so far as it goes, but it only goes so far. There are two questions it still leaves unanswered. First, why do millions have these dark thoughts in the first place? After all, it’s not 1822 or 1922; it’s 2022. Why are they still so hateful and unenlightened?

Second, a significant number of Black men, Hispanics, and white women voted for him. Unless they are all self-hating, which is highly improbable, something other than white supremacy and misogyny must help to explain their—and therefore, by extrapolation, many others’—support for Trump.  

After January 6, 2021, the answer to these questions has become clearer. And it is something that the left themselves can identify with: fear. We actually both fear each other. We both think that the other side is trying to take something sacred from us. The right fears that the left is trying to destroy our country; the left fears that the right is trying to destroy our democracy.  

I choose these words carefully. We tend to use “our country” and “our democracy” interchangeably, but they have distinctly different meanings. “Our country” refers to the way things used to be—and still mostly are: straight, white, “Christian” privilege and patriarchy. “Our democracy” refers to the way things ought to be, our highest ideals: equality, justice, constitutional rights, separation of powers, majority rule, rule of law, multiculturalism, honest public service, and bipartisan governance. Fear of losing our country, not democracy, is what motivates the right not only to vote for Trump but also to worship firearms; to pack the U.S. Supreme Court (among other courts) with right-wing ideologues; to try seizing the government through violent insurrection; to threaten and intimidate poll workers, school administrators, and public health officials; and to promote laws that facilitate voter suppression and election subversion.   

Because the right fear only losing our country, not losing our democracy, they have no problem supporting autocracy. In fact, they have become quite open about it. For four years, Trump was much friendlier to dictators—Vladimir Putin (Russia), Kim Jong Un (North Korea), Rodrigo Duterte (Philippines), Mohammed bin Salman (Saudi Arabia), Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (Turkey), and Viktor Orbán (Hungary)—than he was to our traditional allies. In 2018, eight Republicans, including one of Louisiana’s two U.S. Senators (John Kennedy), chose to spend our most patriotic holiday, July 4th, with Putin in Moscow. Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, along with OANN and Newsmax and Republican politicians like Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ron Johnson (R-WI), regularly promote Russian propaganda and Russian-style authoritarianism. Right-wing billionaires capture mostly Republican politicians with hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign and Super PAC donations. And for all their talk about small government and freedom, Republican-run school boards are banning books they don’t like, and Republican legislatures are passing laws that deny women reproductive autonomy; deny teachers the right to speak about such issues (“divisive concepts”) as homosexuality, systemic racism, and slavery; and deny public schools the right to combat COVID through medically recommended mask and vaccine mandates.

Somewhere along the way, the right—conservatives—transitioned from a high-minded ideology focused on conserving the Constitution and individual rights into a crass, self-serving, quasi-criminal enterprise dedicated solely to conserving the status quo. And because the status quo ranges from bad to terrible for a good majority of Americans, conservatism is now widely perceived to be callous, cruel, and elitist.

This perception helps to explain why the U.S. Supreme Court is so damn unpopular. But this already counter-majoritarian institution really doesn’t seem to care. Instead, for the past twenty-two years, they have done everything they can to reduce the power of the ever-growing center-left majority. For example, in Bush v. Gore (2000), five conservatives threw the presidential election to Republican George W. Bush even though Florida was in the middle of a recount, a recount that ultimately tilted in Democrat Al Gore’s favor. In Citizens United v. FEC (2010), five conservatives greenlighted the flow of dark money to Republican politicians, which has worked against the economic, health, and environmental interests of their own constituents. And in Shelby County v. Holder (2013), the same five conservatives enabled red states around the country to pass the voter-suppression and election-subversion laws referenced above, laws that are designed to lock in Republican control at all three levels—local, state, and federal—for many years to come.  

If Republicans’ anti-majoritarian efforts succeed and they take back the House and/or Senate in November, then God help us all. They will ruthlessly obstruct Pres. Biden and his administration, start running baseless, Benghazi-style investigations into Vice Pres. Harris and other prominent Democrats, and most likely try to impeach Pres. Biden on the basis of frivolous accusations. If Pres. Biden still manages to win re-election in 2024, House Republicans will likely work with several Republican legislatures to decertify his win, certify his Republican opponent instead, and take over the federal government.   

And then the real bullying will begin. People around the country, especially in red states like Louisiana, will be the most vulnerable. There will be nothing and nobody to stop vengeful Republicans from purging their perceived enemies from all positions of power—political, administrative, military, judicial, and academic; nothing and nobody to stop Republicans from dismantling all progressive accomplishments—especially Obamacare, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and civil-rights laws; nothing and nobody, in short, to stop Republicans from turning the clock back at least a hundred years. Their decades-long effort to convert us from a pluralist, constitutional democracy into a revanchist, oligarchical kakistocracy will finally be complete.  

Of course, none of this is inevitable—despite what some doomsday pundits are telling us. We still have plenty of hope. But we have to act. We have to fight back. One way to fight back, of course, is to vote up and down the ballot for Democrats in November. Another way to fight back is more complicated and costly but would pay long-term dividends. Charles Blow argues in The Devil You Know: A Black Manifesto that Black people should move to the South to help convert it from red to blue. My suggestion—call it “Move America” or “Spread the Dems” or “Relocate for Democracy”—is slightly broader: we should build a nationwide group of at least one million retired and job-mobile lefties in blue districts, where they are now “redundant” voters, and relocate them to purple and light red districts around the country. As Blow suggests, this kind of mass transfer would help swing many of the 2022 and 2024 elections to Democrats.

My proposal may seem farfetched, but it is worth serious consideration. Such drastic measures may ultimately be necessary to prevent us from backsliding into a neo-fascist hellhole.

About Author /

Holt B. Harrison Professor of Law, LSU Law School

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